Tag Archives: Valerie Comer

Review: Wild Mint Tea by Valerie Comer

Wild Mint Tea by Valerie ComerWild Mint Tea, by Valerie Comer (Choose NOW Publishing, 2014)

Claire Hadford and two friends have bought a farm in Northern Idaho with the goal of turning it into a hands-on demonstration of sustainable living. They’ve built an interesting straw-bale house (efficient, warm and dry, and far better than the mouse-infested trailer they started out in) and are ready to begin hosting events.

All three women share the grounds-keeping and gardening work while holding down outside  jobs to help with expenses. Claire is a chef, desperate to find a better gig than the weekend night shifts at the town’s restaurant, The Sizzling Skillet. Her boss is a bully who gives her no scope to highlight the local and seasonal ingredients which are her specialty.

Local-sourcing food is a tough sell, and Claire figures that’s why she doesn’t get the contract to cook for a reforesting crew when they arrive in the area. Good thing she doesn’t know the truth: owner Noel Kenzie thinks she’s too distractingly cute.

To ease his conscience, Noel suggests the farm as a wedding venue for his sister, not realizing how much time he’ll end up spending with his sister and Claire.

He’s a man on the move, planting trees across the US and hitting exotic destinations in the off-season. Claire’s roots in the farm go deep—and she needs that stability after a childhood of being uprooted. Plus, the most important thing she’d want in a man—if she were looking, which she’s not—is that he have a close relationship with the Lord.

Noel is saving that until he’s too old to have fun. And he knows he’s not good enough for Claire. His father abandoned the family and only calls when he’s out of cash. Noel has no idea how to be a good dad—even if Claire would take a chance on him.

Wild Mint Tea is the second in the Farm Fresh Romance series, and I really enjoy these books. The characters are real, complicated, and I care about them. Claire and Noel each carry false beliefs about themselves and their needs, and it’s heartwarming to watch them grow. Fans of book 1, Raspberries and Vinegar, will be glad to see Jo, Zach and Domino again.

And people like me who like a little adventure beyond the romance will enjoy the heavy equipment when it rolls in. That’s all I’m saying.

Valerie Comer is a Canadian author who writes “where food meets faith.” She’s passionate about both and too skilled a writer to be pushy about either. She cooks up a fine tale, properly spiced with humour. To learn more about the author, you can visit her website. And come back here on Friday to read my interview with her.

For a little fun, check out this post by the illustrator, Hanna Sandvig–and view the short-but-sweet book trailer. Click here.

[Review copy provided by the publisher.]

Advice I’d Give a Newbie Writer

Following the biweekly series of writing-related posts on Ruth L. Snyder’s blog hop, here are my thoughts for new writers:


You are a writer. Don’t wait until you have something published to call yourself one. We tend to be afraid others will laugh at us or think we’re being pretentious, but the truth is, if you write, you’re a writer. Owning that facet of your identity, and giving yourself permission to be that part of who you are, is a step forward, and if you don’t take your writing seriously, no one else will.

You’re not just a writer, though. Don’t neglect the other areas of your life, even if this one’s the most fun.


Take regular time to write. Little bits will add up. If you want to stick with this long-term, learn to write when the muse is silent and when you’d rather be doing anything else. Writing is work.

Keep writing. When you finish a project to the best of your ability, write something else. Don’t tie your hopes to one thing.

Remember the difference between writing for personal expression and writing for readers. They’re both valuable, but if you want others to read your work you need to revise with their interests in mind.

If you decide to self-publish, do the research first. And hold yourself accountable to produce a quality product, including cover art and editing. Don’t sabotage what you’ve written by packaging it poorly.


Get to know other writers online or in person. Learn from their experiences and their mistakes. These are the people who will encourage and understand you, and you’ll do the same for them. Help other writers, with no agenda. Some of it will come back to you anyway. My favourite online writers’ organizations: The Word Guild, InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship, American Christian Fiction Writers.

Connect with other writers, attend conferences if you can. Be teachable, and don’t turn getting published into an idol. Enjoy the journey, and remember that anything worth doing will take time and practice. If you’re good today, imagine how much better your writing will be after you’ve put in your “apprenticeship”.

On conferences: don’t wait until you’ve “earned” the right to be there. The sooner you go, the less bad habits you’ll have to un-learn later. And the more writing friendships and contacts you’ll develop. My favourite conference: Write Canada. Choose a conference based on location but also based on faculty and course options. If you can’t get to one, there are online offerings like WANA International, and many conferences offer mp3s or CDs of their teaching sessions.


As well as conferences, check out books and blogs on writing. A few books I’ve reviewed and recommend: You Are A Writer by Jeff Goins; The Art and Craft of Writing Christian Fiction by Jeff Gerke; Unleash the Writer Within by Cecil Murphey. Blogs I find helpful: How to Write a Story by Valerie Comer; Write With Excellence by N.J. Lindquist; The Seekers (group blog). There are, of course, many more resources. Feel free to leave your favourites in the comments! 


Do your very best. Don’t let fear of imperfection keep you from sharing your work, but remember to make that work shine as brightly as you can. Serve the art. Don’t be careless with it. This goes double if you’re a Christian. Yes, God may have given you the idea. But He gave you the task of presenting it well. He can use poor writing, but good writing gets into the hands of many more people who He may want to touch with it.

The only way to know you won’t succeed is to quit, so persevere.


I mention this last, but if you’re a Christian it actually needs to come first: pray. If God has gifted you to write, He will make a way to use what you write. It may not be what you have in mind, nor on your timetable, but His way is best. Follow His leading, even if it’s into areas of writing that aren’t your top choice. He knows where this will go, long-term.

To read what other writers are saying about this, follow the blog hop: Just click on the image below.

Blog hop for writers

Interview: Author Valerie Comer

Valerie ComerCanadian author and speaker Valerie Comer has a passion for natural food, faith and fiction. In addition to her website and blog, she contributes to at least four other blogs or websites, runs the To Write a Story site (where you can get a free writing course), and writes fiction with a green twist. Her novel, Raspberries and Vinegar, released this month.

Janet: Welcome, Valerie, and congratulations on your new novel!

Valerie: Thanks so much! I’m very pleased to have Jo and Zach’s story out in the wide world, seeking its fortune.

Janet: I like Jo and Zach, and I hope they’ll make a lot of new reader friends. Tell us a bit about Raspberries and Vinegar.

Valerie: It’s a contemporary romance, first in a series called Farm Fresh Romance, in which sweet and tart Josephine Shaw is on a mission to rid the world of junk food and chemicals by promoting local foods and sustainability. Problem is, the reluctant farmer-next-door thinks city life is the simple life.

Janet: I love the series tag line: Farm Lit with sweet simplicity and a bit of zing. What’s farm lit? Is it light humour like chick lit, or more serious?

Valerie: Farm Lit is in its infancy, so only time will tell what nuances the term will come to mean. For the time being, it’s any fiction that is rooted in contemporary farming, living with the growing seasons and in sync with the land. It includes memoirs such as Ree Drummond’s The Pioneer Woman, and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle.

My personal take in Raspberries and Vinegar is within a romantic tale with real, local food on one side and the modern compulsion with fast junk food on the other. And because Jo Shaw is rather opinionated and (perhaps) a bit insensitive to those who disagree with her, I tried to infuse the story with a light, humorous tone—and made sure other characters called her on her attitude from time to time.

Janet: In the wrong hands, Jo could have been overbearing and obnoxious, but you made her a character I could relate to and sympathize with. I think her regrets when she sees she’s overstepped make her human. She’s like the rest of us: she gets carried away by the things she’s passionate about. Where did the story idea come from?

Valerie: It came from my passion for real food. My husband and I live on a small farm where we try to grow the majority of what we consume—vegetables, berries, nuts, meat, and honey. What we can’t grow ourselves, we seek in our valley before buying elsewhere. We’re delighted to live where we can buy local organic grains and a wide array of fruits and vegetables.

Our adult kids are raising our granddaughters on real food as well. Watching them and their peers seek ways to get involved in the growing world of local food and farmers’ markets is where this series germinated.

Janet: This is the beginning of the Farm Fresh Romance series, right? So we’ll be able to follow your characters into other stories?

Valerie: Yes! While Jo is the focus of this first book, you’ll also meet Claire, a chef, and Sierra, a naturopath, as all three young women work together to build their farm. The second story is Claire’s, while the third novel focuses on Sierra. Throughout the series, the reader will get to experience some of the challenges of contemporary farming while enjoying the romantic nature of each woman’s individual story.

Janet: Jo, Claire and Sierra name their farm Green Acres. They’re too young to know about the classic TV show, but am I the only one with the theme music running through her head?

Valerie: You’re not the only one! I had it a few times, too. I guess I never did say how the farm got its name. I’ll have to make sure that goes in a later book.

Janet: You describe yourself as a ruralist, among other things. How does that look in your life?

Valerie: I discovered the word ruralist when I sought out the antonym of the word urbanite. I was simply seeking an unbiased term that referred to someone who didn’t live in an urban setting. Something that included farmers and ranchers but also embraced folks in small rural towns. I was appalled to discover the derogatory terms pinned on those who (obviously) weren’t sophisticated enough to crave the only satisfying option—life in a city.

I’ve never been a city girl and never felt the desire to become one. I cherish elbow room, mountains, valleys, lakes, wildflowers, streams, breezes, trees, and bird calls far more than shopping, museums, operas, or international cuisine.

Ruralist is simply a respectful term for those of us who live in the country. We’re farmers, but not all ruralists are. Still, all of us value the charms of a slower pace more connected with the seasons.

Janet: I like the convenience of suburban living, but it’s things like streams, trees and wind that refresh my spirit. You’re blessed to live in the country. Your author bio says in part, “Valerie and her husband of over 30 years live on a small farm in Canada with assorted cows, chickens, pigs, and bees. They grow much of their own food and preserve vast quantities by canning, freezing, and dehydrating. They are avid supporters of their local farmers’ market, where they sell honey from 75 hives of bees.” When do you find time to write?

Valerie: It’s a challenge!

Janet: What got you started writing?

Valerie: Because farming these days isn’t particularly lucrative, my husband and I have been forced to view it as a lifestyle choice more than as a family-supporting income stream. In 2001, shortly after we bought the farm from his parents, I landed a job at a small town flooring shop. My duties included everything in the store, while my two boss guys did all the measuring, quotes, and installations. Sometimes it would take me mere hours to set up several weeks worth of work for them.

It didn’t take long for me to crave something to do during quiet hours at work, and my boss guys were totally okay with it. They knew there was only so much dusting a gal could do (though I admit I could have done a bit more…) and allowed me space and internet access to work on writing.

For eleven and a half years, the majority of my writing time took place in my carved-out space at the back of the flooring shop around customers, phone calls, salesmen, and delivery trucks. During those years I wrote 11 novels, sold a novella to Barbour, and worked hard on my skills.

In November of 2012, the flooring shop closed and I moved my “office” into a spare room in our farmhouse. It is definitely more challenging to find writing time now that I’m at home, but now I’m addicted. I start by getting up at 6:30 Monday-Saturday to devote the first few hours to my current story or, now in August, to blog-hopping and marketing.

If it’s a rainy day, or Jim is haying, or busy with the beehives, or nothing on the farm is pressing, I’ll head back upstairs, but if the garden, grandkids, or hubby are calling, my office hours may well be closed for the day by mid-morning.

Janet: It took a lot of discipline to get to this spot. Enjoy it! In your research of all things green, healthy and creation-care-oriented, what’s the weirdest bit of trivia you’ve picked up?

Valerie: I don’t know about weird. We became beekeepers four years ago. I’d never given a lot of thought to their specific challenges before, but the bee population is struggling from pesticide use and commercial monoculture. Still, a high percent (some place it at 70%) of the foods we regularly consume require bees for pollination. It’s unbelievable to me that governments aren’t doing more to protect the bees. Some say that if bees disappeared, mankind would have about four years left on the planet. (Hmm, maybe THAT is the weirdest bit of trivia I’ve picked up…)

Janet: Sounds like the plot for a science fiction novel. And it’s incredible that there’s not more talk about what the declining bee population could mean to our food supply. Another question I wanted to ask you: Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Valerie: I love I Thessalonians 4:11-12 (NIV): “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

Definitely some are called to visibly lead, but it reassures me to know that it’s also biblical to be an introverted ruralist.

Janet: What do you like best about the writing life?

Valerie: I love that I’m doing something creative with my curiosity. It’s a reason to ask questions, learn things, and experiment. Perfect!

Janet: What do you like least?

Valerie: Probably how long it takes to write a novel. Maybe especially how long it takes to REwrite one!

Janet: Writers are told to read widely and voraciously. I think that’s one of the perks of the deal. What are you reading these days?

Valerie: I read a lot of inspirational contemporary romance… and historical if the author’s voice catches me. I read writing and marketing “how to” books as well as farming, gardening, and simple living guides.

Janet: Thanks so much for taking time to let us get to know you a bit, Valerie. May the Lord continue to bless you and make you a blessing to others—in every area of your life.

Thank you, Janet. I love your thoughtful questions. I’m thankful for God’s many blessings, including being here with you and your friends today.


Raspberries and Vinegar cover art

Sweet like Raspberries. Tart like Vinegar.

That’s Josephine Shaw for you: complex yet singleminded. Everyone in nearby Galena Landing, Idaho, has heard her opinions on simple, sustainable living, but what does she really know? After all, she and her two friends are new to farming.

Zachary Nemesek is next door only until his dad recovers enough to work his own farm again. Zach braces for the fall-out when the new neighbors find a mouse invasion but soon discovers Jo has everything under control. Is there anything she can’t handle? Surely there’s more hidden beneath all that vinegar.

Click to read a sample chapter of Raspberries and Vinegar.

A Farm Fresh Romance. This unique farm lit series follows the adventures, romantic and otherwise, of three college graduates who move onto a reclaimed farm where they plan to take the rural area by storm with their sustainable lifestyle and focus on local foods.

Buy Raspberries and Vinegar (includes links to various stores/versions)

Buy through Choose NOW Publishing (includes various links)

Connect with Valerie Comer via:

Review: Raspberries and Vinegar, by Valerie Comer

Raspberries and Vinegar cover artRaspberries and Vinegar, by Valerie Comer (Choose NOW Publishing, 2013)

What happens when three 20-something single Christian women buy a farm in northern Idaho and set out to demonstrate their beliefs about sustainable living?

The farm is called Green Acres, but unlike Lisa from the classic TV show, Jo Shaw and her friends Claire and Sierra have done their research and are up to the task.

Mostly up to the task. There’s the small matter of a mouse infestation in their temporary dwelling, but Jo’s sure they can handle it.

She’s not so sure she can handle their attractive neighbour, Zach. He’s only home to care for his parents’ farm until his father’s health improves, and he can’t wait to get back to the city. The girls see all the pluses of rural living, but he sees only minuses. They eat ethically-sourced food; he’ll hit the drive-thru any chance he gets. Jo doesn’t think she stands a chance with him anyway, against her friend Sierra’s charms.

Jo, at 25, is only beginning to see the world’s not as black and white as she thinks. And she knows her subject so thoroughly, she forgets the average person doesn’t share her knowledge. When she remembers, she tries to fully educate the person on the spot.

Author Valerie Comer does a great job making Jo a likable character instead of the opinionated shrew she could have been. Jo’s just like any of us: passionate about something that matters to her. And like us, she sometimes reacts first and regrets later. She’s a vulnerable character, despite her spunk.

As a boy, Zach loved the farm but hated the low income level. He’s a newly-qualified veterinarian, looking for a lucrative city post with civilized hours and no cows. Somewhere along the way, his faith has been pushed to the side. Coming home may get him thinking about it again.

Something about these characters connected with me. Maybe it’s Jo’s second-guessing herself, or how she’s so quick to compare herself to others (always to her loss). Maybe it’s Zach’s trying to be an honourable man in his own strength. Maybe it’s both of them, carrying loads they were never intended to shoulder alone.

Like Zach, I don’t know much about “walking gently on the earth,” and I found lots to think about in this book. The information flows organically (couldn’t resist that pun) as the story unfolds, and it doesn’t stop the forward motion of the plot.

The novel’s humour offsets Jo’s serious nature, and there are some heart-tugging moments too. This is a longer romance than you’d see from Love Inspired, so the author had more room to explore her characters and readers can get to know them on a deeper level. Definitely a plus, in my view.

My favourite line (said to Jo by Zach’s grandmother):

“God loves your zeal, I’m sure, but He wants your heart.” [Kindle Location 3528]

Jo does love God, but—like many of us—she has a few control issues. So does Zach, for that matter, and one of the novel’s threads is how they’re each confronted with the need to let go of control and let God be God.

Canadian author Valerie Comer is quietly passionate about food, faith and fiction. Raspberries and Vinegar is the first in a three-novel farm lit series called “A Farm Fresh Romance.” She also has a geo-caching romance novella in the collection, Rainbow’s End. For more, visit Valerie Comer’s website. Or click to read a sample from Raspberries and Vinegar.

This week only, buy a print copy of Raspberries and Vinegar and get bonus material:

Book blast details: Raspberries and Vinegar

[Review copy provided by the author.]

Writing Stick-to-it-ive-ness!

Valerie Comer

Valerie Comer

Writing Stick-to-it-ive-ness! (Guest post by Valerie Comer)

Have you ever wanted something so much that you spent a decade learning how to do it with no guarantee you’d ever be successful. . . whatever that means?

Janet’s theme on this site is “tenacity.” It’s vital in so many areas of life. Sometimes we call it stubbornness, but tenacity and diligence sound so much more positive. Either way, it’s the ability to set a goal and dig your heels in until you’ve achieved it.

In 2002 I decided to learn to write fiction. Hours every day had suddenly opened up with nothing to fill them. I’d always toyed with the idea of writing a novel “someday,” and knew this was a God-given opportunity to take the next step. Actually the first step.

Only, I had no idea what that step was. How-to-write books from the library were of little help, but the relatively new Internet pointed to some sites where I could learn. And learn I did. I averaged one novel a year for nine years before I finally sold a novella (ironically unwritten at time of sale), and I’ve written two more since. Over half of these are unsalvageable drafts with huge problems.

The biggest hurdles for me were two-fold.

1. I had no concept of the over-all process. I couldn’t see the steps. You know the cliché “can’t see the forest for the trees?” Well, I couldn’t even see the trees for the twigs. I got bogged down in the minutiae of writing and struggled to find the horizon.

2. I thought writers were either seat-of-the-pants writers (pantsers) or plotters. It took me a long time to “get” that there was a large middle ground in which most writers live. Thus it took me about ten too many novels to find the best practices for me. Now I know better than to tell anyone “this is the way it must be done.”

This spring it seemed the time had come to pay forward and help other, newer writers develop their craft, so I opened a website, To Write a Story, dedicated to teaching fiction from beginning to end. It seems to me that there are six stages in writing: planning, plotting, writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. My goal is to provide an overview of each stage so that writers can keep the forest in mind while they’re focused on those twigs.

To Write a Story

I’ve chosen a two-prong approach:

1. It’s a blog. I post a helpful article every Thursday on one of the six stages. Most of them are written by me, but I accept a small number of guest posts, too.

2. It’s a course. Writers can sign up in the sidebar for my FREE writing course via email. You’ll get a new lesson every week for the better part of a year, walking you through the process from beginning to end.

If you’ve ever wondered just what all is involved in writing fiction, I invite you to subscribe to the course (and/or the blog) and join the 70+ people (about one a day since I opened the course) who are already enrolled. We’re having a lot of fun and I think you will, too!

Want to learn To Write a Story? Then join in!


Valerie Comer’s life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their creation-care-centric church. She only hopes her characters enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.

Valerie writes Farm Lit with the voice of experience laced with humor. Raspberries and Vinegar, first in her series A Farm Fresh Romance, releases August 1, 2013, from Choose NOW Publishing.